WENCHANG, Hainan, March 12 (Xinhua) -- China launched its Long March-7A Y2 carrier rocket on Friday from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in south China's island province of Hainan.
The rocket blasted off at 1:51 a.m. (Beijing Time) from the launch site, sending an experimental satellite into the planned orbit.
The satellite will be mainly used for in-orbit tests of new technologies including space environment monitoring.
This was the 362nd flight mission of the Long March rocket series.
A modified version of the Long March-7 rocket, the launch vehicle represents the new generation of China's medium-sized high-orbit rocket.
It has three stages and a total length of 60.1 meters, seven meters longer than the Long March-7, giving it a slim and tall appearance.
To reduce the risk of the slim rocket breaking off, scientists developed intelligent technologies to offer the rocket better control in the strong winds found at high altitudes, enabling it to find the optimal flight path after liftoff, said Shen Dan, chief designer of the Long March-7A development team from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.
With a takeoff weight of 573 tonnes, the newly launched rocket has a greater carrying capacity than previous models. China's main carrier rockets in service have a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) capacity of 5.5 tonnes, while the Long March-7A is capable of sending a payload of at least 7 tonnes to GTO, about 36,000 km above the Earth's equator.
The Long March-7A also uses environmentally friendly propellants made of liquid oxygen and kerosene. Its launch marks the upgrading of China's medium-sized launch vehicles, said Ma Zhonghui, deputy chief designer of the rocket.
Along with Long March-3A and Long March-5 carrier rockets, the Long March-7A will undertake the country's high-orbit missions.
The Long March-3A rocket can carry payloads of 5.5 tonnes to GTO, and the Long March-5 can send payloads of 14 tonnes to GTO.
Meng Gang, chief director of the rocket project, said the Long March-7A is expected to carry out three to five missions annually before 2025. Meanwhile, scientists will further upgrade the launch vehicle to meet the demand for sending satellites and deep-space probes to explore the moon, Mars and asteroids. Enditem